Hermanus Pieters is credited with first “finding” Hermanus. He arrived in Cape Town in 1815, as a teacher and trekked eastwards with the first ox-wagons to Caledon, where farming was the major industry. He taught students from the Boontjieskraal farm in Caledon.
During the summer months, he started herding his flocks of sheep and cattle from Caledon in the 1820’s, down the “Elephant Pass”, now known as the Hemel-en-Aarde valley, down to the coast, where he found good grazing and fresh water.
Hermanus Pieters did this each year and word fast got around the farming community that he had discovered good new summer grazing land. Many others started to follow him down the valley to seek lush pastures for their livestock, as well as fishermen, who found that the sea was teaming with fish and the farming families who wished to come to enjoy this new spot during the school summer holidays. From then on, the area was named Hermanuspietersfontein, which slowly started to grow into a permanent settlement. Today there is a new stairway and walkway that is situated at the exact location where the fresh water waterfall was discovered by Hermanus Pieters.
The first permanent settlers were the family of Mr. J Michael Henn who, in 1857 with 4 wagon carts, 5 sons, 5 daughters and their various husbands and children, pitched camp right next to the waterfall. They started the fishing industry here and built the first permanent buildings along the present day Marine Drive.
By 1891 there were 2 schools, 2 churches, a hotel, many shops, a post office and a busy fishing industry.
In 1902 the postmaster decided to shorten the name to just Hermanus and the village received official municipality status in 1904.
Word spread internationally too, with Harley Street doctors in London, prescribing Hermanus as an ideal location for rest and recuperation with its “champagne air”. A sanatorium was erected over-looking Walker Bay to cater for those in need of such “natural medicine”.
The small fishing village also started to attract holidaymakers from around the world and grew steadily. One delightful Hermanus story is regarding Sir William Hoy, who was the head of the South Africa Railways and Harbour Services. Sir William Hoy and his family enjoyed holidaying in Hermanus during the summer and had a great fondness for the small town.
Plans had already been drawn up for the railway line to be extended from the main line at Botrivier, some 35 km away, down to the coastal town of Hermanus. As such, a railway station was built ready for the trains to arrive, but Sir William Hoy was concerned that the steam trains would not only pollute the fabulously clean air but also that the town would suddenly be descended upon by 100’s of tourists and hence spoiling the quaintness of this sleepy seaside town.
He, therefore, over-ruled the extension of the railway line and set up a horse and carriage service between the 2 towns. Hence, Hermanus Station is the only railway station in the world to never have had a train arrive or leave it. The Hermanus Tourism Office now operates from this lovely old building.
The Victoria was the first hotel built here and the Marine Hotel quickly followed in 1902, frequented then by the British upper classes, which boasts a fabulous cliff top position overlooking Walker Bay.
Today Hermanus is a scenic town that has stretched along the coastline, hugging the sea and hemmed in by the steep high mountains a few kilometers inland, with Cape Town being only 90 minutes drive away. Currently, the town has over 70,000 inhabitants; 18,000 of whom live in our township of Zwelihle.
During the South African summer school holidays (mid-December to mid-January) which coincide with the Christmas holidays, Hermanus attracts over 220,000 holidaymakers. Mainly South Africans who wish to enjoy the town’s seaside and beaches, the fabulous scenery, the wine valley of Hemel-en-Aarde, quaint markets and art galleries, and the many outdoor activities that have sprung up. These include – Whale watching (June to December), Great White Shark cage diving, horse riding, sandboarding, quad biking, kayaking, micro-lighting, paragliding, golf, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, the local brewery, fynbos & flower nature reserve, sailing, scuba diving, surfing, and more besides.